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Sea otters have been a staple animal in my household since my oldest was a toddler. I know a large, unusual amount of sea otter facts for kids. That is because my oldest son, Kai, has loved all otters since he was old enough to know what an otter is. Otters are adorable and fun little furry animals that your kids are sure to love too! Here are some facts about sea otters for kids.
Side-note: We have so many otter stuffed animals in my house. People always say, “Don’t buy your kids stuffed animals because they’ll never play with them.” Wrong, people. My kids play with them daily. If your kid loves otters, get them an otter stuffie, they will love it:
Here are a few of the otter stuffed animals my kids are obsessed with:
- Aurora World Miyoni Sea Otter Plush Brown
- Wild Republic River Otter Plush
- Wild Republic River Otter Standing Plush
Fun and Interesting Facts About Sea Otters for Kids
A sea otter is a kind of weasel. They are the largest member of the weasel family and one of the smallest marine mammals.
There are thirteen different species of otters that exist around the globe. The U.S. is home to just two species of otter: the sea otter and the North American river otter. River otters are much smaller — averaging 10-30 pounds. Sea otters weigh more — around 45-90 pounds.
Otters are found along the Pacific coast of South America, ranging from northern Peru to Tierra del Fuego.
Neotropical otters range from Uruguay north to Central America and Mexico. Southern river otters are found in Argentina and Chile, while the giant otter is found throughout almost all of South America.
More fun facts about sea otters for kids:
The average weight of an adult female California sea otter is about 50 lbs. Males can weigh up to 70 lbs.
The sea otter is the only species in the marine mammal family that lives its entire life in the ocean, spending a lot of time on rocky shores and in kelp forests.
Sea otters learn to swim at 4 weeks of age.
Oddly enough, otters are not born with the natural ability to swim, even though they live their entire lives in the ocean. They learn to swim by watching and copying each other and quickly become great swimmers.
Sea otters can dive to 250 feet (76 meters) to forage for food. Most of the food they eat lives on the bottom of the ocean so they have to dive to retrieve it. They eat 25 percent of their body weight in food every day.
Sea otters are foragers and they eat marine invertebrates.
Their diet includes sea urchins, a variety of bivalves such as clams and mussels, abalone, other mollusks, crustaceans, and snails. Sea otters are one of the few animals that can eat sea urchins.
Sea otters are one of the few animals that use tools. They use their front paws and rocks to open shellfish by cracking the hard shell.
The scientific name of the Sea Otter is Enhydra lutris, which simply means ‘in water otter’ in Greek and Latin.
The nostrils and ears of sea otters close in the water.
Sea otters wrap themselves in kelp or hold hands when sleeping to prevent drifting.
Sea otters are incredibly clean and keep their waterproof coats in perfect condition.
The sea otter’s fur is incredibly thick. They have 850,000 – 1,000,000 hairs per square inch, the thickest fur of any mammal.
Sea otters have no insulating fat to protect them from the cold ocean water, but they trap air under their coats as insulation. They are the only marine mammal without a layer of blubber (fat).
The coat of the sea otter has ‘pockets’ under the front legs which are used to stash food during dives, much like the ‘pouches’ in the cheeks of hamsters during foraging.
Baby sea otters are called pups.
Sea otters can have a pup any time of the year.
Southern sea otters breed and pup year-round, while northern sea otter pups in Alaska are usually born in the spring.
A newborn pup needs constant attention and will stay with its mother for six months until it develops survival skills.
An otter pup’s fur is so dense that it can’t dive underwater until it gets its adult fur. Female sea otters can leave their pups safely floating on the water’s surface while they forage for food.
An otter’s lung capacity is 2.5 times greater than that of similar-sized land mammals. Sea otters have been known to stay submerged for more than 5 minutes at a time.
Adult male sea otters are usually territorial, typically mating with several females in an area that they defend. Females are more nomadic.
A group of otters resting together is called a raft.
Otters love to rest in groups of large numbers. Female otters are sows, and males are boars. Otter groups are called a family, bevy, lodge, or a romp.
Sea otters are prey to very few natural predators and have a good rate of survival as pups. They can live from 10-15 years in the wild. One reported predator that feeds on sea otters is stellar sea lions.
Humans are the biggest threat to sea otter populations, but oil spills, pollution, disease, and loss of kelp pose major threats.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 categorized sea otters as an Endangered species because they were historically hunted for their extra dense layers of fur. Their population declined from 300,000 to 3,000!
Sea otters are a keystone species, which means that they are vital to the maintenance of their ecosystems. They eat marine herbivores like sea urchins, making sure that the sea urchin population is controlled and doesn’t eat up all the kelp on the ocean floor.
Sea otters communicate vocally making loud noises.
There are nine types of sounds identified by wildlife experts in sea otters. Female otters coo when they are content and male otters typically grunt instead. Sea otters even scream or shriek when they feel threatened!
A sea otter is about five times smaller than an adult human. They can measure up to 4.9 ft when standing on their hind legs.
A Southern sea otter can swim as fast as 5.6 mph.
Sea otters look too cute to be dangerous, but they can be quite aggressive wildlife when threatened.
Just like every human has a unique set of fingerprints, every sea otter has a unique scent that identifies its age, species, breeding status, and identity.
Northern sea otters are found in the Aleutian Islands, South Central and Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. The Southern sea otter population also called California sea otters, live in waters along the coast of California.
Sea otters rely on their long, sensitive whiskers to help them to detect vibrations and movement in murky water.
Although sea otters are very protective of their babies. An adult sea otter tends to show its baby to a predator so that the predator might feel compassion for them.
Otters spend a good part of their day grooming themselves. They clean their fur by biting it and scratching it against rocks and other stationary objects.
Now you can see why sea otters are a favorite in our house. We hope you’ve enjoyed these fun facts about sea otters. These small mammals are so neat and easy to love. I hope these neat facts for kids will have your whole family loving them too!
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Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.